What is Dementia?

Dementia is a collective term for over 100 diseases of the brain that can affect memory, communication skills, reasoning and the ability to carry out daily activities.

Across South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust we place great value on providing compassionate, dignified and safe, high quality care to every one using our services. We are fully committed to providing dementia care for our patients by providing tailored support to relatives and carers. 
Providing excellent, personalised care for patients living with dementia and their carers, is the ultimate test of our determination  to  drive through quality improvements in patient care and experience. 

Our Dementia and Delirium Outreach Team (DDOT) within Sunderland Royal Hospital supports our patients with or at risk of cognitive difficulties such as Dementia and Delirium. The service aims to assess all older people admitted to the Trust with or at risk of cognitive problems. Referrals are only be made from within the Trust.

The service also has a role to support carers and staff within the Trust by providing information, education and specialist input to the wards. People with dementia can be admitted to hospital due to many reasons such as infections, heart failure, falls or social issues. These patients have complex needs and require specialist input.

Our team are based in The Alexandra Centre which aims to act as a centre of excellence to provide this care and raise standards across the Trust, by using an in reach / outreach service for cognitively frail in-patients. There is strong evidence that therapeutic activity, which patients can receive at the centre, and basic care can improve outcomes for those experiencing dementia. We also provide an outpatient follow up clinic for patients who have had delirium.

A host of organisations offer help and support to those with dementia and their loved ones.

Contact us

  • Alexandra Centre - 0191 5699766
  • DDOT Elder Life Specialist Practitioners - extension 41572

Finding us

You can find our Alexandra Centre on the E Floor at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Our team

Matron - June Lawson
Consultant - Dr Lesley Young
Consultant - Dr Emily Lyon
Elder Life Specialist Practitioner DDOT - Claire Boylan
Pharmacist - James Hogarth

Dementia Friends Group

Dementia Friends Group

Salvation Army Building, Wawn Street, South Shields

Fortnightly, Tuesday 1-3pm


Do you care for a loved one with Dementia?

STACS are currently running a dementia friends support group for Carers offering support groups for Carers offering support and friendship to Carer whose lives are affected by dementia. Cares and Cared For are affected by dementia. Carers and Cared For are welcome to attend together.

The support group is a relaxed, informal and free drop-in session providing a safe space where Carers can share their advice, friendship and to keep updates of support available throughout the Borough.

Due to high demand please call beforehand to book a session.

Also, once month drop-in sessions giving advice, information and one to one support now in place to commence Tuesday 2nd August from 3-4pm and monthly thereafter. These sessions are facilitated by specialist dementia advisord from the Alzheimers Society. 

For more information please contact Maria on 07435803701 or email us on STACS@cgl.org.uk

Dementia Strategy

The Dementia Strategy was developed with support of nurses, doctors and managers and was  launched in September 2018 and set out our strategic ambition for continuously improving services and the care of people living with dementia, their families and carers. 

There are 6 ambitious strategic aims and objectives to  deliver:

  • Person Centred Care
  • A Competent and Compassionate Workforce 
  • Evidence Based Pathways of Care and Assessment
  • Strong Partnership and Engagement 
  • Dementia Friendly Environments 
  • Clear Accountability and Governance 

The strategy was launched with a joint dementia workshop for both trusts, the aim of the workshop was to create through the power of conversation an environment in which members could come together to discuss issues and share collective knowledge and experiences in order to influence change and promote good practice. 

A Dementia Strategy group was developed at South Tyneside to support the existing group at Sunderland. Both groups will own this strategy and take responsibility for the delivery of these aims over the next three years by building on the strengths and weaknesses, current innovations, past successes and the different resources available for the delivery of high quality dementia care. However as work continues with the merger the Dementia strategy group will become one in the future. The progress of this work will be measured using local measures and feedback from the National Dementia Audit.   

What support is available?

What support is available?

What support is available for me if I care for someone with dementia?

When you’re caring for someone else, it can be easy to overlook your own needs. But looking after your health and making time for yourself can help you feel better and more able to cope with your caring role.

Caring for someone with dementia can lead to feelings of guilt, sadness, confusion or anger. Unlike with other conditions, it can be difficult to share these feelings with someone with dementia, leaving you feeling very isolated.

It’s important to acknowledge these feelings, and to remember that there’s no right or wrong way to feel. If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, or you're struggling to cope, talk to your doctor who can let you know about the help and support available to you.

Carers' groups

Carers’ groups can be a good way to get support from other carers who understand what you’re going through and can share their own experiences. Most groups meet regularly and may offer speakers, leisure activities, trips and simply time to sit and chat.

Metcalfe Dementia Support Service

Metcalfe Dementia Support Service Age UK Sunderland has a new developmental service available from March 2020. The Metcalfe Dementia Support Service offers a dedicated day service for older people living with moderate dementia who live within the boundaries of Sunderland. The Metcalfe Dementia Support Service is a chargeable service that is available Monday to Friday 9 am – 3 pm. The centre has a beautiful colourful dementia friendly design and provides tailored support from trained and dedicated staff.

Day Services Co-ordinator
The Metcalfe Centre
Age UK Sunderland
Lee Terrace
Houghton Le Spring

Phone: 0191 514 1131 / 0191 526 9274

  1. Essence Service

Essence Service Keep the essence of you, after a dementia diagnosis The Essence Service is the first port of call for people in Sunderland who have recently been diagnosed with dementia, and those who care for them. After a dementia diagnosis, the Essence Service is the first port of call for people in Sunderland who have recently been diagnosed with dementia and those who care for them. Highlight_alt4 Keep the Essence of you

The Essence Service
Sir Thomas Allen Centre
Mill Hill Road
Doxford Park 

Phone: 0191 522 1310

These are just a couple of the services that are on offer, for further information please contact Sunderland age UK.

  1. "My Safety Net"  How Essence is making a difference

My Safety Net My Safety Net - How Essence is making a different   “My safety net”, words used to describe how Age UK Sunderland’s Essence Service has helped one lady cope with her husband’s diagnosis of dementia.  Offering a wide range of practical support and information around health, wellbeing and legal issues.

Frequently asked questions

I’m worried about someone I know but they don’t think they have a problem, how can I help?

If you are worried that someone may have dementia, you should talk to them about seeing their GP. The GP may ask more detailed questions, do a physical examination and request blood tests. This is important because there are several illnesses which may mimic the symptoms of dementia, but which can be treated, e.g. vitamin deficiencies, an under-active thyroid and depression.

If the GP suspects there is a problem with memory, they may refer you on to a specialist memory service for further investigation. Making a diagnosis of dementia will enable the person with dementia, their family and carers to access treatment, care and support.


How is dementia different from delirium?

Delirium is a combination of confusion and disorientation, often accompanied by paranoia and delusions and is treatable if identified. People with dementia may also experience delirium or depression as well.

This can sometimes make diagnosing dementia more difficult particularly in the early stages or when someone is unwell due to another illness or condition.


What is different about early onset dementia?

Certain types of dementia are more likely in people diagnosed under the age of 65 or ‘early onset dementia’. The symptoms of dementia may be similar regardless of a person’s age, but younger people may have different needs, and require some different support.

In frontotemporal dementia, there is damage mainly to the front part of the brain (the ‘frontal lobe’) and the part of the brain responsible for memory (the ‘temporal lobe’). Damage to the front part of the brain may lead to changes in character and behaviour, e.g. behaving oddly or becoming disinhibited. People may also lose their ability to plan and organise things.

Although frontotemporal dementia is an uncommon type of dementia, it is a significant cause in those people who develop dementia at a younger age (i.e. under 65 years).

People with a learning disability are also at greater risk of developing dementia at a younger age – particularly those with down’s syndrome. The onset of the disease also tends to start much earlier with symptoms appearing from around 30 – 40 years of age. It may also be harder to diagnose at first and it is more likely that the dementia will progress more rapidly. The Annual Health Checks for older people with learning disabilities provided by GP practices should include screening for dementia.


Why isn't there a cure for dementia yet?

Our understanding of dementia is improving as more research is done but we don’t yet have all the answers. Advancements in care mean improved medication is now available which can stabilise memory loss and other symptoms and can often slow the decline.


Is there anything I can do to reduce their risk of developing dementia?

Eating a healthy and balanced diet and staying mentally, physically and socially active may all help reduce the risk of developing dementia.


Is it still safe to drive with dementia?

A diagnosis of dementia is not in itself necessarily a reason to stop driving. What matters, from both legal and practical points of view, is being able to drive safely.  However, in some cases doctors may advise ceasing driving as a precaution, at least until further assessments are carried out and reviewed (which can take several weeks). This medical advice should be followed.

To continue to drive it is necessary to fulfil certain legal requirements, including informing the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).  It is also necessary to inform your car insurance company. Notification of a diagnosis should be sent with your full name, address, date of birth and the driver number on the driving licence to the Drivers Medical Group at the DVLA.

For more information contact:
Driver Medical Group Telephone: 0300 790 6806
DVLA Telephone: 0300 790 6801
Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) Swansea, SA99 1TU

Or visit www.dft.gov.uk/dvla

If you have been diagnosed with dementia and are unsure of your ability to continue driving, you can take a driving assessment. To do this, you will need to apply directly to one of the approved mobility centres, and pay a fee, currently between about £50 and £130.

For details of mobility centres that offer such an assessment visit www.mobility-centres.org.uk/find_a_centre/

If following its enquiries, the DVLA decides that you can continue to drive, they will issue a new driving licence that will be valid for a limited period.  For a person with dementia, the licence duration is usually one year, although for very early dementia it may be longer, up to a maximum of three years. Your condition will be reviewed at least once a year.


Is incontinence inevitable if you have dementia?

Although incontinence can be a distressing problem, it is a common one. There are a number of reasons why if you do have dementia you could become incontinent but it is not inevitable. A GP, community nurse, continence adviser or occupational therapist should be able to provide advice and suggest ways to make it easier to cope.


What are ‘Life Stories’ and how do you do them?

Life Stories is a way of gathering information to help people understand and know more about the person with dementia and their lives and interests.  As their dementia progresses it can become much harder for the person to communicate things that they really like or dislike verbally. When people understand a person more fully it can help them to meet their needs better.

With the help of family, friends or staff it can be done quite simply by using photographs and writing important events in the person’s life down in an album or book. You might want to include information about their childhood, places they lived or worked, people and pets that were important to them. Some people may choose to do this on a computer and print a copy off. It can even be a short presentation to show others on a DVD or laptop. Some people choose to record lots of things in their life story, while others have a short summary and “10 things you need to know about me”. It can then be used by a range of people as a conversation point to encourage interaction and to know more about important things like routines. Click here for tips on how to create a life story for people living with dementia.


Whats is a 'Dementia Friend'?

Dementia Friends is a Government programme lead by the Alzheimer’s Society that aims to make everyday life better for people with dementia by changing the way the nation thinks, talks and acts. A Dementia Friend is an individual who has the confidence to help people with dementia feel understood and included in their community. They are someone who has been to a Dementia Friends’ training session and has pledged to take action within their local community.


Can you work if you have been diagnosed with dementia?

A diagnosis of dementia does not mean you must stop working, although it is advisable to tell your employer. A disability employment officer at Jobcentre Plus can give advice. Adjusting working hours, reducing distractions from the working environment and using technology can help, or considering other alternative types of work may also be beneficial.

Get involved

Click here to find out more about volunteering for the Trust